A retired University of Vermont dean was killed while walking on her favorite trail Thursday afternoon near the campus where she once taught.
The Fleming laureate, 77 years old, respected biochemist and cell biologistwas shot in the head around 4 p.m. on the Delaware and Hudson Rail-Trail near the Castleton campus of Vermont State University, where she was Dean of Education before her retirement. HThe body was found about a half hour later and witnesses described seeing a white man with red hair, approximately 5 feet 10 inches tall, who Vermont State Police named as a person of interest. He was not apprehended and police warned he was considered armed and dangerous, and urged residents to be vigilant.
“We don’t have a suspect, we don’t have a motive,” Maj. Dan Trudeau, commander of the Vermont State Police’s criminal division, said at a news conference Monday afternoon, but noted the agency had received more than 200 tips from the public. Investigators are specifically asking people who were walking or biking on the trail between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on October 5 to come forward. They continue to search the area with assistance from the Castleton and Fair Haven police departments, New England K9 Search and Rescue and other agencies.
Fleming’s body was found just a mile from the university, which closed its campus and issued a stay-at-home order Friday. The university also announced Friday that additional security measures were taken at school, with “24-hour coverage” by its public safety department and local police.
“This is an incredible tragedy for the Castleton campus and for all of Vermont State University,” Interim President Michael K. Smith said in a message to students, faculty and staff. “The honoree will be greatly missed.”
Fleming was days away from celebrating her 45th wedding anniversary with her husband, Ron Powers, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, who announced her death in a Facebook post Friday.
“I will write more, much more about my beloved laureate as I am able,” Powers said. “Those of you who knew her know she had a lovely name. I have never known a stronger heart and soul than his. She took with her much more than half of my heart and soul.
Powers co-wrote the New York Times nonfiction bestseller “Flags of Our Fathers,” which was adapted into a feature film directed by Clint Eastwood in 2006. In 2017, he spoke about his two sons and those of Fleming, Kevin and Dean, and their struggle with schizophrenia and Dean’s suicide, in the critically acclaimed “Nobody Cares About the Crazy: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America.” »
“I miss our late night wine conversations,” Powers said, speaking to his wife on Facebook. “I miss just sitting and watching you talk to others.” Your pretty face came to life and your eyes shone and your head tilted in a way that made me rejoice in the fact that you had come down from the stars to honor my life. And then Dean’s and Kevin’s.
In a follow-up message thanking the many people who contacted him in the wake of Fleming’s murder, Powers wrote: “You understood and cherished his bright soul, and that is (part of) the reason I can tell me that even though the brilliance of her scientific vision was not fully recognized during her lifetime, the dear laureate did not live in vain. She uplifted every life her life touched.
Classes are expected to resume on Tuesday at the university and local primary and secondary school, Castleton. Police Chief Peter Mantello said during the news conference, but reiterated that residents must remain vigilant.
“The most important thing is situational awareness,” he says. said during the press conference. “Lock your cars, lock your doors. …If you’re going somewhere, pair up, use the buddy system. BBut the most important thing is to be observant.